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Monday, August 10, 2009


(Pic: Belinda Henwood, Darren King and Peter Court)

KickstArt presents Michael Frayn’s ultimate backstage farce in Durban and at the Hilton festival.

The Witness Hilton Arts Festival in collaboration with multi-award winning Durban production company, KickstArt and funded by the National Lotteries Board will stage a brand new production of the ultimate backstage farce, Noises Off by Michael Frayn which comes to the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from August 20 until September 6 before going to the Witness Hilton Arts Festival on the weekend of the September 19 to 20.

Noises Off is a rollicking farce that tells of the rivalries and misfortunes of a bickering touring theatre company.The play’s title refers to theatrical stage parlance meaning sounds that are meant to originate offstage. In this case, the noises off are the backstage hisses, yelps, battle cries and drunken banter of the actors who are entangled in a fabulously complicated farce of their own.

Noises Off was written in 1982 by English playwright / novelist / journalist / commentator / translator Michael Frayn. The idea to write a backstage farce was born in 1970, when Frayn was standing in the wings watching a performance of a comedy which he had written for Lynn Redgrave called Chinatown. He is quoted as saying, "It was funnier from behind than in front and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind."

The play has become a staple of professional theatre companies, school groups and community theatres on both sides of the Atlantic.

The KickstArt cast is comprised of top-notch local talent, starring Ben Voss, Lisa Bobbert, Roxy Nel, Darren King, Michael Gritten, Bryan Hiles, Belinda Henwood, Peter Court and Liesl Coppin. It is directed by Steven Stead and designed by Greg King.

In his plot for Noises Off, Frayn explores variations of a play within a play - in this case a clunky second rate sex romp entitled Nothing On. Quoting Frayn’s programme notes it is “The type of play in which young girls run about in their underwear, old men drop their trousers, and many doors continually open and shut.”

The programme notes from the Carpenter Square Season explains further: “The silly plot seems to involve a daffy maid in an English country house, where one couple plans an illicit affair, another couple hides from the tax collector, and a drunken burglar and an Arab sheik complicate the action. Of course, the requisite slamming doors and dropping trousers are in abundance. At intervals in the botched rehearsal, the audience gets a glimpse of the actors' own quirky personalities and company romances.”

Playwright Michael Frayn gives us three separate glimpses of the company and their cheesy comedy. Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of Nothing On – as seen from infront and behind the curtain: Act One takes place at the dress rehearsal the night before the play’s opening with the cast still battling to remember entrances and exits, missing their cues, mucking up their lines, and having a difficult time with bothersome props – especially plates of sardines.

Act Two portrays a Wednesday matinee performance one month later – seen from backstage revealing offstage shenanigans and onstage bedlam. In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of their season in which the performers attempt to cover up a series of mishaps but in so doing, only draw attention to the bungling performance and the deteriorating cast dynamics. Much of the comedy emerges from the subtle variations in each version as off-stage mayhem impact on what is seen on-stage.

Michael Frayn is a rare breed of contemporary writer – comfortable in writing quality political thrillers and contemporary social dramas, such as plays (Copenhagen and Democracy) and novels (End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies), as well as comedy farces such as the multi-award winning Noises Off. He is also considered to be Britain's finest translator of the works of Anton Chekhov.

KickstArt presents Noises Off, funded by the National Lottery Board.

Performances in Durban take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from August 20 to September 6, with shows Tuesday to Saturday at 19h30 with an extra performance on Saturday at 14h30 (Sundays at 15h00). Tickets R90 with a special low price preview on August 20. Booking for the Durban season is now open. For more information visit KickstArt’s website:

Booking for the Witness Hilton Arts Festival performances (September 19 to 20) opens on August 21. Details and bookings can be found at or 033 3830126 or